Hike #29: Orphan Lake Trail

Distance hiked: 8km
Location: Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ontario
Date: July 3, 2020

The name Orphan Lake just sounds depressing. Even more so when you pass signs for Dad Lake, Mom Lake and Baby Lake along the drive to get to the trailhead for the Orphan Lake Trail. But the hike itself is not tragic, but rather all magic. Except for the steep parts.

The Orphan Lake Trail is located near the northern shore of Lake Superior, passes through hardwood and evergreen forests and features three scenic lookouts along the way.

The trailhead is located off Highway 17 just north of Katherine Cove. But before getting started there’s a boot brush to use before and after hiking the trail to remove invasive plant material and seeds.

The first couple of kilometres are gradually uphill, but the path is well-marked with blue markers, wide and relatively gentle.

We reached a junction where the path forms a loop around Orphan Lake. The sign at the junction points left to hike clockwise along the trail and to the first scenic lookout of Orphan Lake. This is where the terrain becomes progressive more rugged.

The path follows along the western shore of Orphan Lake. There is another short detour to get to the other two scenic lookouts of Lake Superior.

From here, it’s a steep and rocky descent to a pebble beach on Lake Superior. The path contains several dicy sections with lots of roots and rocks to hop over, on and around. The pebble beach marks the half-way point of the trail and here the trail overlaps with the Coastal Trail (65km, rated very demanding) for a few hundred metres.

The path branches shortly off again with a sign to indicate that the Coastal Trail continues along the shoreline, while the path for the Orphan Lake Trail weaves back through the forest. The trail follows along the Baldhead River to Orphan Lake. This time we followed the eastern shore of the lake before steadily making our way back up to the junction. From there, it’s a short and easy walk back to the parking lot.

Afterwards we headed to Agawa Bay to go for a swim.


My progress on the 52 Hike Challenge can be found here

21 thoughts on “Hike #29: Orphan Lake Trail

  1. kagould17 says:

    A couple of years ago, I would have had no idea of where this was, but we dawdled a bit along this area and did some good hikes in 2018. Love the lake names. Nothing ostentatious, but perhaps what the namer was thinking of when hiking here. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Glad you were able to spend some time in this part of Ontario as it’s really beautiful. Even though I’ve lived here my whole life, this is the first summer that I’ve ventured to Lake Superior. Now that I’ve been to all five of the Great Lakes, I can honestly say that Lake Superior is easily my favourite. It’s more rugged and remote, which means that it’s a great area to camp and hike, which are some of my favourite activities. Thanks for reading.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      You’re absolutely right. The scenic lookouts along the trail really are an efficient way of seeing the views of the wilderness without having to trek all the way through it. As an added bonus, we only encountered one other couple while hiking this trail so we truly felt like we had the lake all to ourselves.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Haha, we’re hardly considered expert hikers. But yes, many of the hikes in this area are accessible to the average hiker and range in length/difficulty depending how long you want to spend hiking. The whole area around Lake Superior has been such a fun stretch to explore by foot and car. Thanks for reading.

  2. alisendopf says:

    I saw your post about the 52 Hike Challenge! What a great idea. To be honest, getting into 52 hikes is a lot. I usually average about 25 hikes per year, with my all time high around 35. Are you allowed to count x-country and back-country skiing? If so, I might be able to get up to 52. Good for you! I look forward to seeing all your adventures.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      52 hikes in a year definitely is a lot, even for me. I signed up for the challenge at the beginning of the year as part of my New Year’s resolution. This turned out to be the perfect year to complete the challenge because of the pandemic. I haven’t been spending as much time with friends and family so I’ve had more time to go hiking instead. It’s mid-September and I’ve gone on 45 hikes so far. Almost there. Not sure if cross country skiing counts. I don’t see why not. I think the whole point of the challenge is to just be more active and spend more time outdoors. Thanks for reading.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It certainly is a nice hiking trail with lovely views of the lake along the way. Happy hiking next week. I’m hoping to get some hiking in myself as the leaves have just started changing colour here. Might as well make the most of it before winter comes.

  3. Janet says:

    I always like to learn why lakes are name what they are. When you put Orphan Lake amid the family of lakes, you’re right, it’s a little sad. Yet again, great photos of a pretty area.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I feel very fortunate to live in Ontario and have access to all these provincial parks and conservation areas. It’s been nice to get a change of scenery and be able to enjoy the outdoors during the pandemic. Take care.

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